Under the experienced guidance of long-term Councillor for the Hauraki Gulf and Chair of the first ever Waiheke Local Board, Faye Storer, successive Boards were able to use both SLIPs (small local improvement projects) and development contributions to progress the dream. These funds and land contributions allowed the Boards to purchase land when it came on the market; accept those land contributions that benefited the vision and create the tracks that would eventually link in a network - joining up the whole.
The project was nearing completion in 2010 when the first Waiheke Local Board took office. The Board made it a priority to press ahead with one of the missing pieces - a track through Te Matuku that would divert walkers off the road, through coastal reserve adjacent to a nationally important Marine Reserve and wetlands, through a little accessed DOC (Department of Conservation) Reserve and then on to Orapiu via the coast or road. Years of planning had gone into this project. Everything was finally in place, - the land, the money and the plans. All that was needed were the resource consents.
Suddenly, and without warning, progress came to dead stop because Council’s own Parks Advisor, Gary Wilton, took it upon himself to commit the Board to a Cultural Impact Assessment (CIA) from iwi as a condition of consent. There was no precedent for this.
The area is already well documented archeologically and has been the focus of several detailed heritage studies. While a CIA might be of interest, to make it a condition of consent meant that now any further progress on the project hinged on having that CIA completed.
The price was set at $70,000 - money which Wilton then approached the Board for.
What particularly rankled was that this cost was verbal only! It was not accompanied by any parameters around a contract with iwi – no description of works, no breakdown of costings, no timeframe for delivery, no proof of expertise or ability of local iwi to undertake the CIA and no appeal mechanism. The Board was being asked to hand over $70,000 of ratepayers’ money for what amounted to a promise and a puff of smoke.
The first Board took their responsibilities as financial guardians of the public purse seriously and were not prepared to effectively make a gift of $70,000 to iwi without knowing just what we were to receive for your money. In other word’s, we refused to pay this unjustified ‘bribe’.
Months dragged on with no sign of a written quote and the Board made a counter offer of $5,000, but still refused to hand over the money without a contract. However, the CIA didn’t appear to be as big a priority for iwi as it was for the Parks Advisor.
You might think the story stopped there. It didn’t. The Board was later advised by Wilton’s superior in the Parks Department, Jane Aitken that it was the Board’s responsibility to now gift money to iwi to ‘capacity build’. That is, to pay to train iwi members so that they could produce the CIA for which we would also eventually need to pay. Apparently, this was now the policy of the Parks Department and expected by Government. The CIA demand delayed the project and effectively scuppered it.
No contractor and client operate in this way. For Council to subject its own ratepayers to such practices is even worse. No consideration as to honesty and integrity and no consideration of what money would then be left to do the actual work.
Projects, including the Around Waiheke Walk project, had required a form of CIA before. They usually consist of local iwi saying if they have any objections to earthworks being undertaken, given their tribal knowledge of the area. In turn, they may even consult those who have made it their business to research the history of the area. Historically, they have been low key and co-operative. One CIA for a private land owner quoted passages from readily available historical works and cost $500 for two pages.
This CIA ‘mana whenua’ process is exactly what some Auckland landowners are going through right now when they apply for a resource consent for even minor building work on their own land, such as the addition of a deck. However, you can multiply the cost and time of getting a CIA by as much as 19 times. That’s the number of different iwi some hapless Auckland landowners are being required to ‘consult’ BEFORE being allowed to start Council’s own resource consent process. This system is in place NOW even while the PAUP (Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan) is still going through its Hearings process, including hearing over 1400 objections to these ‘mana whenua’ provisions.
Fortunately for Waiheke we are not part of the general PAUP because your first Local Board was wise enough to focus on finalisation of the Hauraki Gulf Islands District Plan, which was well underway before the Super City took over. However, if the ‘mana whenua’ provisions are written into the Regional Policy Statement of the PAUP, this will also apply to us.
Like the rest of Auckland, much of Waiheke is covered by so-called ‘mana whenua’ sites, so you may well be affected in the future. That’s why Te Matuku provides a salutary tale of what’s in store for Waiheke, Auckland and from there the rest of New Zealand. As well known business man Sir Bob Jones so succinctly put it, Auckland Council and its bureaucrats are creating ‘a cult of racketeering and extortion’ to further the aggrandisement of tribal elites. All at the expense of their own ratepayers.